By Max Radwin, Daily Fine Arts Editor
Published February 28, 2013
Shows featuring this caliber of comedian are rare on the calendar, but when they do show up, it’s usually in a situation like Joe Rogan’s. It gives them a chance to work out some rougher material and to have some fun in a low-key setting.
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“We see them on the way up and we see them on the way down,” Feeny said. “We’re not going to see them on the top because we don’t seat enough people, to be frank.”
Most of the week’s headliners have a regional or budding popularity, and come to spread their name, develop an identity onstage or just work a room with a solid reputation.
Comedian David Dyer, who will be performing Feb. 28 to March 2, comes to the Showcase for many of these reasons and shares an enthusiasm for the club with similar headliners.
“That’s an excellent room to work out material — to just really try new things and grow a little bit. That’s one of my favorite rooms in the country,” Dyer said. “I know a ton of comics who will tell you they just love working that room. It’s a great intimate setting; the crowds are excellent — they’re smart.”
In the last 20 years, Dyer has put his humor to work in just about every medium: He’s written for “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon” and ABC’s “Politically Incorrect,” done character voices on radio and recorded a comedy special “Yowza!” But with a wife and two daughters in Grand Rapids, Dyer has found himself utilizing YouTube and other Internet resources to grow his name so he doesn’t have to travel too far from home.
“I have a family and I’m not in a position to nor do I have any plans to move, so you know what? I’m going to do a bunch of stuff myself,” he said.
In this way, the value of the Showcase for Dyer becomes one largely of convenience and accessibility. At the same time, it represents something greater about honing one’s craft.
It’s just comedy
“The reason that I’m doing that video stuff is to showcase acting and writing,” Dyer said. “But if you want to do standup … you can do stuff that’s funny on YouTube, but man, you still have to step up in front of 200 people and do it. And that’s the only way you’re going to get better, is to get onstage.”
Fromm had his chance to get better the following week that I went to see him, when he was among the top-12 comics set to perform for Wednesday’s open mic.
I showed up to the club early that night, hoping to pick Fromm’s brain for anxieties and expectations. Though he would later deny it, you could see the nervousness on his face. As I sat down, he gave me a quick smile, a quiet hello and returned to his notebook.
But onstage, Fromm was cool and relaxed, which was one of the reasons that his set stood out from many others. A lot of his jokes were new or going through their second trial-run, but you wouldn’t have guessed it from watching him. He had a strong stage presence, smooth delivery and an intuition for timing. His jokes were largely observational, and accurately so. It was clear that he had figured out, on a fundamental level, how to make a room laugh.
Even when he stumbled over one of his jokes, and when an audience member chose to engage him after a spur-of-the-moment remark about the Pope, Fromm maintained composure, improvised and came out of both situations unscathed.
“It wasn’t as smooth as I would have liked,” he told me after the show. “It was an organic energy, and the interaction with the crowd was good. I’m trying to get better at performing — just being on stage and being naturally funny not with stuff that I’ve written.”
Fromm was specific and articulate about his improvement, his goals and what kind of performer he wanted to be in the next open mic. But even with his improvement, wouldn’t Fromm and other young comedians be better off in a town like, say, New York? Chicago? L.A.? Is Ann Arbor and its Comedy Showcase the right place for a young comic? Fromm wasn’t entirely sure.